Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Amy Carmichael - A Mother to the Motherless

Amy Carmichael, was a British missionary from the 1900s who dedicated her life to serving children in South India. Dohnavur Fellowship, the orphanage she founded for children who were abandoned or rescued (often from temple prostitution), still stands today, faithfully serving the Lord.

When I first read about her, I instantly fell in love - in addition to being a courageous Christian woman, she served the part of the world I come from, had a heart that broke for the lost and strove sacrificially, to bring justice to the vulnerable. Her life is nothing short of inspiring and here are a few reasons why...

She did not let convention hinder her calling

Carmichael longed to see the lost saved, whatever the cost. Paraphrasing Paul in his first epistle to the church in Corinth... to the Japanese she became like a Japanese, to the Sri Lankans, she became like a Sri Lankan, and to the Indians she became like an Indian. She recognised that the comfort of familiarity was worth little before the weight of the gospel she bore; hence she let God lead her into places where others failed to go, using means that were frowned upon. Her example reminds us that evangelism has no status quo, and encourages us to break free from socio-cultural taboos for the sake of the gospel.

She honoured the authority of scripture

Stephen Neill was an intelligent young man, who had a Cambridge education and was waiting to be ordained by the Church of England. However he doubted the trustworthiness, hence inspiration and authority of scripture on intellectual grounds. Despite this, to many his credentials made him better suited than Carmichael to take over the work at Dohnavur (or at least help lead it alongside her). Carmichael rightly opposed it!
I've seen many profess faith in Christ yet question the authority of scripture, cherry-pick to their whims and fancies, or totally take passages out of context. What good is a great education, or good morals when it comes to understanding God? If we fail to see Him for who He really is, we will never truly see why we, and the world around us, desperately need Him.
Yes we live an age where the harvest is plenty but labourers are few, but it is also an age rife with false gospels. Carmichael's resolve to uphold the authority of scripture reiterates the fact that we are better off with no labourers at all, than having the wrong kind of labourers.

She sincerely sought to remove anything, in herself or her ministry, that could hinder the salvation of a lost soul

Iain H. Murray, points out in his biography, 'Amy Carmichael - Beauty for Ashes' that Carmichael was so pained upon hearing that many in Dohnavur were yet to know Jesus, that she prayed the following,

'There may be weakness, compromise, lack of determination to keep the winning of souls to the front, the use of unconsecrated means, unsanctified ways of getting money, unconverted workers. There may be an absence of identification with the people for whose sake we are here, an unconscious aloofness not apostolic. Perhaps our love has cooled. Perhaps we know little of the power of the Holy Ghost, and hardly expect to see souls saved here and now, and are not broken down before the Lord because we see so few. God forgive us and make us more in earnest.'

It pains me that I don't seek a revival enough to pray relentlessly. It pains me that I don't care enough about my loved ones to risk rejection to tell them about Jesus. It pains me that I don't bother to rid my life of those 'harmless' sins that I let myself slip into. It pains me that my walk with God is so driven by convenience, that I justify reading a devotional without actually picking up my Bible to meditate on it. Perhaps I ought to make Carmichael's prayer my own! If I really want to see lives saved from an eternity in hell, I ought to strive to live a life that is sold-out for Jesus, in private and in public.

She let God steer the rudder

Amy Carmichael set out to Asia as an evangelist, little did she know that God had something else in store for her. Initially she mothered a number of young girls, but God surprised her with the 'accidental' arrival of a baby boy, and she found herself adapting the work to include little boys. Her life reminds us to hold our dreams and desires loosely but to hold on to God tightly. I have stopped stressing about where I see myself in 5, 10, 15 years time - all I know is that I see myself following God on the path He has set out for me.

These are but few of the many reasons why I find the life of Amy Carmichael inspiring - I would really recommend you delve deeper into her life for yourselves. May we, along with Carmichael and others like her, live a life motivated by love, full of passion for the gospel, and led by the Holy Spirit, completely trusting God.

I would like to end with a little fact I knew nothing about until recently, but it is something that added to my excitement in exploring the life and ministry of this remarkable missionary.
Amy Carmichael travelled with a small group of Tamil Christian women to proclaim the gospel. They called themselves the 'Starry Cluster' based on Daniel 12:3 ~ Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. It just so happens that a great grandmother of mine, Sellamuthu, was one of the women in the Starry Cluster.

One of my great grand mothers, Sellamuthu, with one of the little girls at Dohnavur. She is said to have had just one arm, but was known for her heart for social justice